Tag Archives: Cornish mining history

Some threads in history and the last Great Cornish Engineer

Notes and musings for the Friends of Luxulyan Valley William West talk.

This is post is a resource for all those who attended my talk in March 2017 in the Luxulyan Valley, an area rich in William West’s History.  The post follows the order of the presentation, contains links to references within the Navbooks blog, along with a few facts, figures and dates.  

If you did not attend the presentation, then feel free to wander among the links on this page, and perhaps enjoy forming your own conclusions about the significance of the Austen’s engine trial.

wpid-screenshot_2015-08-21-17-43-45.pngThread one-The Steam engine Duty race

Steam engine development in Cornwall

  • Newcomen engine first used at Wheal Vor in 1715
  • The first James Watt engines in Cornwall  1777

The Cornish engine

  • 1812 the first high pressure condensing engine

Duty

Number of pounds of water raised one foot by an engine using one bushel of coal.

The Duty race

  • 1811 Lean’s Engine reporter started publication, Maximum duty recorded  22.3 Million
  • 1815 Woolf’s compound 50 Million duty

Click here for a post on Lean’s Reporter and some layers of history>

Samuel Grose

Click here for  more information about Samuel Grose>

  • 1825 Grose erected his engine at the Wheal Hope Mine .  This engine first introducedTowanHeather the concept of insulating the  the cylinders, nozzles, and steam pipes, an introduction that greatly improved the efficiency of the engine.
  • 1827 Grose’s 80″ at Wheal Towan is recorded at 67m.

Thread two- J.T Austen

Click here for some key dates in Austen’s life>

Austen before the engineaustin

  • 1782 Austen is born
  • 1778 His Mother inherited estate from her brother
  • 1803 He came of age, and was managing the family estate, which was not in a good condition
  • 1814 Early evidence of Austen investing in mining ventures.

Fowey Consols is formed

Click here for information about Fowey Consols>

  • 1816 Austen buys shares in Wheal Treasure, this would later develop into Fowey Consols.
  • 1822 Wheal Treasure, Wheal Fortune and Wheal Chance combined as Fowey Consols

Fowey  Consols success

  • The total production of copper from the mines between 1815 and 1836 was 383,359 tons which brought in sales of £2,247,478.

A new engine is required

Thread three- William West

The engineer is born

Click here for some key dates in William West’s life>

  • 1801 William West is born at Dolcoath

Influences

Click here for the story of West and Trevithick>

  • 1808 West holds a candle for Trevithickw6

Dolcoath and engineering

  • 1817 to 1819 West works at Dolcoath fitting shop

West becomes and engineer

  • 1822 West is chief working engineer at South Roskear and other mines

Wheal Towan

  • 1828 Grose achieved 87m with his Towan engine, trial is demanded, a trial is run.

Click here for information about West and the engine at Wheal Towan>

  • 1831 West was Engaged by  J. T. Austen at Fowey Consols and Austens Engine was austinpanfirst proposed
  • 1833 The contract for Austen’s engine signed

The threads converge at Austen’s engine

Click here for information on Austen’s engine trial>

Fame and controversy

Click here for a letter from James Sims>Click here for a letter from James Sims>

“I have no doubt that at least all practical engineers will agree with me, that it is perfectly absurd to think of making a fair trial of the duty of a steam engine (working under similar circumstances as the engine in question), in the short time of 24 hours” James Sims

A diverging thread, wealth

West is sought after

Click here for information of William West’s Caradon mines>

Properties

Click here for some maps showing some of William West’s properties near St. Blazey>

  • 1848 St. Blazey foundry built by West
  • 1852 Tredenham House is built

 

Beyond engineering

  • 1864 Liskeard Bank is founded

Click here for information about Liskeard Bank>

Phoenix Unitedwpid-th-5.jpeg

  • 1868 West gains majority shares in Phoenix United Mine

Click here for information about William West and Phoenix United Mine>

Click here for information about Phoenix United Mine>

  • 1898 Phoenix United closes.

A diverging thread-innovation

Steam Capstan

Click here for information about the steam Capstan>

  • 1835 Installed at South Hooe mine

Horizontal whim

  • 1843 Installed at Par Consols

Sims compound

Click here for some information about the Sims compound engine>SimsCoverClose2

  • 1843 The Sims family granted West the licence to build the Sims compound engine, and West installed several large engines of this design in Devon and Cornwall.

Open work beams

Click here for some information about William West’s open work beams>

Click here for information about the President engine ( external link)>

  • 1846-1849 Cruquius engine 144″

 

“In 1869, the company’s engineer, Cornishman John West, was asked to design an engine capable of pumping 12,000 gals/min from a depth of 300 ft. His engine, a condensing, double-acting rotative beam engine weighing 675 tons, was unique, but proved to be as successful as it was gargantuan. With a 110-inch cylinder and two latticework beams, the engine worked pump rods in the shaft and a pair of huge flywheels inside the engine house.”NANCE, R. Damian,

The man engine

Click here for information about the Man engine>

Click here for information about the Loams>

man%20engine

28th July 1851 William West engine at Fowey Consol’s started

  • Powered by a  30 foot diameter water wheel, 12 foot strokes
  • Co-designer John Puckey
  • 1872  South Caradon engine installed
  • 20 October 1919 Levant man engine disaster

 

A final diverging thread- the engine

Austen’s engine performance

  • 1840 Hocking and Loam’s 85″ engine at Taylor’s United mine achieves 107m, the largest figure recorded in Lean’s
  • 1850s onwards-duties decline the battle is over.
  • 1905 The last issue of Lean’s is published.

Click here for some information about the engine reporters>

 

The old Ford engine startsw13

Click here for information about the double beat valve>

 

The double beat valve

Cholera

1866. Cholera’s final onslaught came through water provided by the East London waterworks


Reading list for William West of Tredenham

Click here for some recommended books on Amazon>

wpid-50150fcb361d2756f4bd40336f24004a.jpgIf you are passing through Liskeard then pop into The Book Shop to buy a copy of  The Last Great Engineer in their excellent local history section.

 

NavsBooksStore

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Austen’s Engine Trial

austens2010The focal point of my talk at Luxulyan has to be the Austen engine at Fowey Consols. This post explains why.

An historic event at Fowey Consols

Overlooking St. Blazey Gate in Cornwall on October 22nd 1835 a crowd of the respectable, skilled and knowledgeable gathered to witness an event that would be a landmark in steam engineering history. It would be an event that  would change the life forever of its engineer, enshrine  the name of a landowner in history, bring wealth to a famous foundry  and have have impact  wherever water needed to be pumped in Britain.

Austen’s 80″ Cornish steam engine at Fowey Consols was at the center of the event.  Expert witnesses watched as coal stores were measures, stores locked, meters read, machinery inspections conducted and measurements taken. The objective of the day was simple to measure the efficiency of the engine in its ability to pump water out from the depths of the mine hundreds of  feet below its foundations.dscf9312

As an activity this was not unique, for since 1811 all over Cornwall engines’ efficiency had been measured, recorded and published. ‘Duty’ was the unit of measurement used, and a publication now refereed to as  ‘Leans Engine Reporter’ publicly shared the results; results that had driven a technology race in Cornish Mines.

What made the measurement of duty at Austen’s engine in 1835  was that this was a trial to prove or disprove the claims of duty being made for this engine. This was an engine whose arrival within the tables of Leans was with figures that outperformed all the existing  famous engines in Cornwall.  In addition its joint engineers, William West and William Petherick were relatively unknown in the public arena. The pair did not have a record of high performing engines, and their arrival straight to the top of the league tables sparked disbelief and accusations of foul play. And so the trial was organised, to prove in controlled conditions that Austen’s engine actually performing as the engineers claimed.

austensengine2016os

Austen’s Engine site 2017 Copyright OS Click here for map>

The mechanics of the trial required all the factors that made up the measurement of duty to be recorded. That is the amount of water lifted, by what distance with how much coal.

And so the coal was measured, the length of pump stroke measured and number of strokes taken by the large beam engine recorded. The resulting figure was a measurement of how much coal was needed to raise water from the depths of a Cornish mine. A figure of great importance to Cornwall, where its mine’s where deep, water was in abundance and coal expensive.

On the 23rd of October 1835 the trial finished. Measurements were taken and calculations complete; the resulting figure was spectacular. Austen’s engine had achieved 125 million duty, a performance that broke the existing records, and a performance that would never be overtaken by any other engine.

austensgoogle2017

Austen’s Engine on Google Maps 2017 Click here for map>

That day on Fowey Consols Cornish Steam engine technology appears to have reached its zenith. I say appears, because history is never as simple as that, disputes, accusations and controversy followed in the wake of the trial, and the duty recording system collapsed soon afterwards.

125 million did have its impact on history, despite of
the controversy. William West became very rich on its reputation, Harvey’s of Hayle would gain large amounts of extra work, and its influence would eventually result in improvements in clean water supply in the rapidly expanding British cities.

For another post about duty from this blog, ‘ Lean’s reporter, John Taylor and some layers of historyClick here>


51tRtgzctrL__SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU02_AA160_ If you enjoy reading on Kindle you can read more about William West of Tredenham>

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William West- Some key dates

wpid-screenshot_2015-08-21-17-43-45.pngDates in the life of William West of Tredenham

The Last Great Cornish Engineer

As a foundation to build my next talk around I have thrown together a few dates in William West’s life. Yes there are many gaps, and yes it is all a bit random in topics, but it does create a quick orientation time.  As this series of posts progress, so will this post be updated.  For a very quick biography of  William West Click here

1801

William West is born at Dolcoath

1808image003

West held a candle for Trevithick has he designed his ‘Catch-Me-Who-Can’ locomotive

1817 to 1819

West works at Dolcoath fitting shop

1822

West is chief working engineer at South Roskear and other mines

1828

Grose’s engine at Great Towan achieves an impressive 87 million duty with Wilson’s engine, a result TowanHeatherpartially the result of West’s improvement in insulation

1831

  •  Engaged by  J. T. Austin at Fowey Consols
  • Austins Engine was first proposed

1833

Contract for Austen’s engine signed51tRtgzctrL__SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU02_AA160_

1834

Austen’s Engine is started


1835


1837

  • West became the Fowey Consols sole engineer
  • The East Cornwall The engine was put up for sale by Harvey’s

The Victorian period starts

1838

The East London Engine was startedw13

1839

W4

1840

West started working for South Caradon mine

1843

  • West installed the first horizontal whim at Par Consols
  • West obtained a licence to build Sims compound engines

1845

  • West installed his first large Sims engine at Great Wheal Martha
  • Was contractor  on  Brunel’s atmospheric railway

1847-1858

Brownes engine reporter is printed

1848Map1881Tredenham

St. Blazey foundry is established by West

1850

William West commenced wpid-th-5.jpeghis association with Phoenix United Mine

1852

Tredhenam  house is built

1852

1856

St. Austell Lower foundry purchased by Westwpid-41f3tbq-cnl._sl500_1-2.jpg.jpeg

1863

Brenton Symons publishes his map of the Caradon mining District and Webb and Geach produce their book.

1864

1867

  • Fowey Consols failed
  • South Fowey Consols founded

1869

Newquay and Junction Railway completed to Drinnick Mill

1868

  • Penquite house purchaced
  • West obtains majority shares in Phoenix United

1870

Presentation to West of a time piece by the Phoenix United minersPhoenixCounthouse

1872

The South Caradon man engine is installed

1873

Cornwall Minerals Railway’s Act of Parliament was laid

1874

Cornwall Minerals Railway opened

1879

wpid-w2.jpg

1891

St. Blazey Foundry closed

1897

Phoenix United closed


wpid-westcover.jpgThe Last Great Cornish Engineer

William West of Tredenham

A paperback from the Trevitihick Society

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Webb and Geach explored- The miscellaneous mines

A wander through the ‘History and Progress of Mining in the Liskeard and Caradon District’

CaradonCopperPan

That is the final post covering the mines within the miscellaneous section of Webb and Geach’s book  completed. So before this blog leaves the topic for some William West related topics here is an index of the posts.

These posts explores some of the smaller mines described within Webb and Geach’s  book of the Liskeard mining district in east Cornwall. This 1863 publication is currently available in paperback from the Trevthick Society, ISBN 978 0904040 88 3.wpid-wp-1441052784407.png

Each of the posts explores the mine sites through maps available on the internet, so by following the links a virtual exploration of the locations can be undertaken. The mines covered are all listed in the section titled ‘Miscellaneous’ within the book ( pages 98-102). In describing these mines Webb and Geach state-

“Several lodes in various parts of this district have been formerly worked, mostly for tin, but are now abandoned, many of them for long periods.”

Predictably, many of this mines have little or no evidence on maps, even by the 1880’s little remained on the Ordnance Survey maps. Tantalising traces do remain however, of some of these unsuccessful attempts to mine in the area around Caradon Hill.

Brwestcraddockmoorsymonsenton Symons’ map of 1863 contains evidence of many of these mines, and a copy of that amazing Victorian Cartography forms part of ‘The Liskeard Mining District in 1863‘ publication.

Its been great fun exploring these little known Cornish mines through the screen of my Kindle Fire. But William West of Tredenham, The Last Great Cornish Engineer is again requiring some fresh research. So this blog will be leaving Webb and Geach for a while, but will return in the future to look at some of the more successful mines of the Liskeard District.

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Webb and Geach Explored-West Craddock Moor Mine

West Craddock Moor Mine on Bodmin Moor, Cornwall

This is a post in the series exploring the Webb and Geach’s book ‘History and progress of mining in the Liskeard and Caradon district‘ through maps available on the internet. West Craddock Moor is one of the small mines listed in the miscellaneous section of the book (page 100). These mines by their nature have left little or no trace, and despite much peering I can find no evidence of this one on any of the maps apart from Brenton Symons‘.

 

Cornwall XXVIII.NW (includes: Linkinhorne; St Cleer.) Surveyed: 1881 to 1882
Published: 1883

os1883westcraddockmoor

Produced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Click Here for OS 1883 Map on the Library’s excellent website>

Brenton Symons

westcraddockmoorsymons

Extract from Brenton Symons’ 1863 map

OS 2016

westcraddockmooros2016

Click here for map>

Google Earth 2016

westcradockmoorgoogle2016

Current Google Earth Map

Cornwall Council interactive map

westcraddockmoorcau2016Reference : MCO38680
Name : WEST CRADDOCK MOOR – Post Medieval mine
Monument type : MINE
Period : Post Medieval
Form : EXTANT STRUCTURE

Click here for map>

 

 

Click here for Heritage Gateway information>


For Webb and Geach and other John Manley’s books-click here>

wpid-wp-1441052784407.pngwp-1453408124105.jpeg

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